Why Maclean’s should be ashamed of their Easter article on Jesus

Andy Steiger Articles, Parents, Youth 13 Comments

Be sure to check out the accompanying podcast episode!


It’s rare that an article makes me angry but this one did it! I am so tired of articles seeking to sucker readers in with controversial ideas whose only value is sensationalism. Yet, this latest cover story by Maclean’s goes far beyond that – it’s outright dishonest and manipulative. It preys on ignorance and reeks of a hidden agenda.

Being that it’s the Holy Week with Easter just around the corner, I’m not surprised to see a magazine like Maclean’s running a story on Jesus. However, I was confused by the title: Did Jesus really exist? Memory research has cast doubt on the few things we knew about Jesus, raising an even bigger question. The title caught my attention because the article was on Bart Ehrman’s new book that seeks to cast doubt on the reliability of the New Testament, specifically the Gospels, given their original reliance on oral tradition. Ehrman is an agnostic New Testament scholar who has made a career-and a tidy profit-casting doubt on the New Testament for years so his most recent book is nothing new.

What is new is how the author of the article, Brian Bethune, is using it. With the use of some literary sleight of hand and bad logic, Bethune constructs an entirely different argument, namely that Jesus never existed. This is an idea that Ehrman himself has outright rejected. In fact, Ehrman was so annoyed by that idea, often propagated by a group called the “mythicists”, that he wrote a book called, Did Jesus Exist? in which he argues that Jesus indeed did exist. He writes:

There are several points on which virtually all scholars of antiquity agree. Jesus was a Jewish man, known to be a preacher and teacher, who was crucified (a Roman form of execution) in Jerusalem during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea. Even though this is the view of nearly every trained scholar on the planet, it is not the view of a group of writers who are usually labeled, and often label themselves, mythicists.1Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012), 12.

Ehrman goes to great lengths to show that Jesus did exist and thoroughly debunks the mythicist view.

I am so tired of articles seeking to sucker readers in with controversial ideas whose only value is sensationalism.
You can begin to appreciate my surprise when the article, which begins with Ehrman, switches half-way to the ring leader of the mythicists, Richard Carrier. Carrier is one of the handful of historians that hold to this radical view. Bethune then takes this radical view and begins to argue for it as though it’s the majority view! Reading the article, one can’t help but wonder, given all the unsupported superlatives, if Carrier paid him off. Multiple times Bethune writes, “increasingly persuasive chorus of challengers…”, “has been persuasively argued by numerous scholars, including historian Richard Carrier.” So who are these “chorus” of “numerous scholars”? Who knows? He doesn’t say! Why doesn’t he say? Perhaps it’s because Ehrman was right in saying that Jesus did exist and that, “…this is the view of nearly every trained scholar on the planet”?

What Bethune’s article does show us is a textbook example of amateur, agenda-driven writing that you would expect from a high schooler with a bad attitude or a rant on Reddit. Not only are no Christian historians referenced in this article (by the way, Bart Erhman’s wife is one of those), but the article gives a glowing and unsupported review of mythicists. Lastly, the logic. If Ehrman’s book were correct— and it’s not—it would only show that the New Testament is unreliable. This is a farcry from saying that Jesus as a historical figure didn’t exist.

In sum, I have no idea how this article got into a magazine like Maclean’s, let alone on the front cover, but I’m not sure if I should weep or laugh.

Maclean’s, we expect better from you!

Be sure to check out the accompanying podcast episode!


About the Author

Andy Steiger


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Notes   [ + ]

1. Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012), 12.

Comments 13

  1. Pingback: Why Maclean's should be ashamed of their Easter article on Jesus - Apologetics Canada

  2. Undoubtedly, if this was any other Religions Holiday…..All publishers would tread very lighty in order to remain either neutral or “Politically Correct”.
    How is it that a major Publisher (McLean’s), feels there will be no accountability to the “Religion” (Christianity) on which it’s Country was founded.
    Shame on them and shame on us for not having a louder voice over the last number of decades.

  3. “I am so tired of articles seeking to sucker in readers with controversial ideas whose only value is sensationalism.”

    For Christ’s sake, Andy did you write this while taking a s***? You’ve effectively written off the complexity of canonical development by trivializing the porous reliability of oral memory. Additionally, your lack of empathy toward Bethune is unacceptable and to speculate about him being payed off is at best, sour.

    Considering looking beyond the collection of your life experiences and education.

    1. So are you going to write a letter to the Editor of Macleans and suggest a debate?

      The only thing more appalling than disingenuous attacks against Christianity is Christians’ willingness to sit on their hands imagining they have some immunity to the changing climate. Make some noise people.

    2. Tyler, why do you start with insults and then rebuke the blogger for same?

      The “porous reliability of memory” is well and truly trivialized in Bethune’s strategy of starting with Behrman and switching to Carrier, which is like swapping whiskey for Snapple. Even a casual reader might notice the yawning gaps. Most of the article is spent on Behrman, who, although an atheist (largely due to the problem of evil — is that evidence too?) , flatly denounces, in print, the mere notion of the title of the article.

      The title should have been “Did Our Journalism Exist?”. Further vexing is the implicit claim to objectivity. Christians are subjective, but atheists are objective.

      I think it is their god who should get off the pot.

  4. Well if not paid off, then maybe incredibly lazy. The fact that Bethune’s research missed Ehrman’s book denouncing Carrier’s position, and reinforcing the credibility of Jesus’ existence, was purposeful deception or exceptionally poor journalism.

    Maybe a quick email to NT scholars such as Craig Evans or NT Wright could have answered some questions. Or maybe a quick google search….

  5. “Maclean’s, we expect better from you!”

    Really? I wouldn’t expect better from them. Material of this calibre defines McLeans .. it’s their very essence. It’s exactly what I’ve come to expect from them and I’d be shocked if they produced a piece of particularly high-quality writing and thought. They are becoming less and less relevant with every passing day. Look at PostMedia News. McLeans will follow suit; it’s only a matter of time. This sort of shoddy work shows their true colours. They’re trying to provoke with this narrow minded, badly constructed gibberish. The best thing you can do with news organizations like this is ignore them .. don’t buy their magazines or pay them any attention. There are tons of alternative news sites with authors writing great things; give ‘them’ your support. BDS them .. it’s what they deserve.

  6. Why not debate the reality of Muhammed and the reliability of the Koran? Maclean’s is far too craven to delve into subjects that may cause them harm.

  7. Every christian should question the validity of the Gospels if they are expected to have any credibility. Do you mean to tell me that when you’re witnessing to a friend you won’t tell him/her that you’ve actually thought very carefully about the claims that the Bible makes? If you haven’t worked this out, how do you really know that the claims you make are fair reasonable and accurate. It is indeed one thing to say the Jesus Christ existed, it’s something completely different to say that he was a God.

    It is the responsibility of every christian to be able to fairly state where they inserted faith in place of “knowlefge” when explaining the gospels. Otherwise you have a religion based on fallacy, not fact accentuated by faith.

  8. Because it was Easter and a majority of Canadians are of Christian descent. Stop trying to make this about Islam or whatever axe you want to grind.

  9. Islam? I sense a bit of paranoia here

    This is an Apologetics website, where discussions about how we know if God is real or how we know about if Jesus was a God are meant to take place.

    Do you know where knowledge and faith intersect in your own relationship with God? Do you really think the average Christian has not questioned their own faith? Of course they have. Most have.

    That’s why we discuss the philosophy and arguments about Gods existence here.

    Based on your extremely odd response I have to wonder who has an agenda or an axe to grind.

  10. Pingback: Maclean’s inept hatchet job on Jesus | Uncommon Descent

  11. I appreciate your conterview to Bethune’s unsubstantiated claims.
    Maclean’s is no longer a credible source of information.

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